She stares into her glass pensively, looking around the room. The season wrap party might well be a series wrap party for all they know ... They've been told that the network hasn't made a decision yet and that they won't know if the show is going to continue until 2012.
This might be the last time she works with these people ... with him.
Queensland, Australia has started to feel like another home of sorts. Working on a television series has offered the stability and continuity that working on a movie doesn't.
"Yoh Scott – what's with the face? It's supposed to be a party." She recognises the familiar, clipped accent and looks up into the grinning face of her co-star Dean Geyer. The two of them get weirded out all the time over the fact that, when in character, neither of them is using a real accent. Sometimes even when they're not filming, they jokingly lapse into the American accent of their respective characters – making it more and more exaggerated depending on how silly they're being.
Dean's got the accent she has come to recognise as mostly Australian but with a hint of strangeness in it that people tell her is South African. "So what it means is that you can't make the 'A' sound? African becomes Efrican?" She teases him.
This makes him launch into what is possibly the worst cockney accent she has ever heard.
It doesn't help the Babel-like chaos that Jason's accent is Irish when he's being normal and American when he's being Jim Shannon. Landon cops a bit of the accent flak, too with Dean doing pretty good Degrassi impersonations whenever Landon's vowels go Canuck during filming.
"I'm partying, Geyer - can't you tell? " she says sourly but allows him to pull her to her feet with a familiarity that months of working together has brought about. Not only her co-star on-set, a fellow singer, Dean's the only other actor willing to sing karaoke with her when sober – the rest need alcohol before they'll warble. Dean's also the one who thinks it would be a cool idea to do a flash mob of "Determinate" at Westfield Shopping Mall even though she tells him if he does it, he'll be out there making a fool of himself on his own.
There's blinding flash after blinding flash from the cameras during the group photos and speeches. There's a lot of applause and more photos ... She's starting to feel a throb in her temples that signifies that a headache is on its way. As if he knows, Dean looks down at her in concern. "You, ok Scott?" he asks her.
He's got a girlfriend. He treats me like I'm a kid .
Dean's girlfriend is gorgeous ... beautiful in a way that Naomi knows she'll never be. Naomi has an exotic cast to her face – she knows she's pretty, wholesome, perky and can sing ... but she doesn't have the glamorous, model-like polish that Dean's girlfriend has. His girlfriend isn't here tonight but they've met before. She's also really nice...
"Fine – just bit of a headache – don't worry about me," she says with a grimace. "I'm all right."
"You don't look all right," he says frowningly. "As usual – you're a bit special-looking..." he pulls an exaggerated face and this makes her laugh.
"Not as special as you – Mr Tough Guy who gets knocked out by an itty bitty pterosaur? My big, brave, muscley hero ..." she coos.
Dean rolls his eyes. "Enough already," he tells her. The pterosaur episode is a sore point that the rest of the cast delight in exploiting. To this day, no one really knows how it is or why it is that Dean's character manages to get knocked over and then knocked out by the pterosaurs in the episode. They joke that it's the writers' way of making sure he doesn't get a big head.
She looks up when something cold is placed against her temples and she sees that Dean's holding his glass against her head in an effort to numb her headache. "Thanks, I think," she mumbles.
It brings back amusing memories of the stink leaves episode.
The wet, cold clay is kind of disgusting but the hilarity that ensues more than compensates for any grossness.
"Dean – stop smiling so much – you look like you're enjoying yourself too much!" the director admonishes him when Dean can't stop grinning even though he is being slapped about with clay.
"Clearly I'm much better at acting," Naomi mocks him, poking out her tongue as she portrays an outraged Maddy Shannon, annoyed that her new dress has been destroyed by stink-leaf saturated mud.
"In your dreams, Scott!"
One of the gifts they've been given tonight as part of the party is a series of photos from that episode – the two of them covered in clay, faces positively encrusted with the stuff.
That of course then brings back memories of their first kiss, clay-covered and in a fake tree ...
The first kiss is a bit of a disaster with clay getting in their mouths. The second attempt at a kiss is filled with awkwardness as Naomi realises that she's feigning something sweet and intimate with this boy while being surrounded by the crew and a bunch of cameras.
"Hey relax, Scott," Dean whispers in a low voice so that no one else can hear.
"I am relaxed damnit," she says through gritted teeth, squeezing his hand convulsively as if she's going to amputate it. He grimaces a little but leans in.
"You can do this – just pretend you're crazy about me. How could you not be?" he teases her. The third attempt at a kiss is perfect, mouths closed, gentle and filled with tenderness and when he draws back they smile at one another – forgetting the existence of the set and the crew that are waiting for the director to bring the shot to an end.
Dean helps her down from the prop and there's an odd expression in his eyes that she hasn't seen before. He seems in no hurry to let go of her even though they're both on the ground.
When they receive the souvenir photos of the clay scenes, Dean is laughing as he recounts how he actually had to shove Naomi's butt up the tree when they were trying to climb.
"Hey – it was slippery!" Naomi protests, but she's laughing, used to Dean hassling her. Everyone else calls her Nay but Dean persists in always calling her Scott as if she's one of his mates from school. She's never sure whether to feel special or insulted.
When they play 'Determinate', she knows that Dean's the one that made them do it and she shakes her head in disbelief as he drags her out onto the dance floor to dance around crazily to the music.
"You do know that this still doesn't count as a flash mob, Geyer," she tells him.
His enthusiasm is infectious though and before long, she's dancing with him and the two of them are in perfect sync the way they always are, their dance moves getting more wild and crazy as the song progresses.
During filming, they were always pranking one another. The first was Dean swiping her iPod and putting on some truly godawful tracks that came on when she was in the middle of preparing for a scene.
"What the – ???" she exclaims when some truly bad death metal starts blaring through her ear buds.
She retaliates by putting a whole lot of easy listening and yodelling tracks on Dean's iPod when he's not looking and going to spy on him when he goes for his daily jog around the set with his iPod plugged in. The look of horror and then hilarity that crosses his face makes her laugh out loud even as he gives her the finger from across the lot.
Their second kiss happens in the episode "Versus" as Naomi rushes up to Dean and cups his face, trying to avoid the sticky corn syrup masquerading as blood on his face. This involves her eventually grabbing him and just planting a kiss on his mouth – she gets it right on the third take but the kiss takes a little long, goes past the cut and the director clears his throat loudly amidst the giggles of the cast.
"You two want to be left alone?" the director jokes and there is laughter. Naomi laughs, too but when she looks up into Dean's face, she sees that he's not laughing and he looks like he wants to say something.
She holds up her hand, fingers tipped with sticky red liquid. "Yuck – Reynolds blood ..."
"It's sweet, though," he tells her and lifts her hand to his lips and licks one of her fingertips teasingly. She stiffens, unable to believe the jolt that goes through her when his tongue touches her skin.
She's relieved when they finally finish the scene and it's hard to stay serious when the two of them have to do some goofy dancing at the Harvest Festival, skipping and turning like country yokels. "We need bluegrass music for this," Dean comments as they link arms and twirl around.
"If you'd danced like this before you might have won Australian Idol instead of coming third," she taunts him.
"You're so unkind," he says without any heat and they laugh, the tension of the earlier scenes vanishing.
"Determinate" finishes and a breathless and laughing Naomi allows herself to be pulled into another dance by Jason this time. She tries not to notice that Dean stands leaning against the wall watching her, an unreadable expression in his blue eyes.
He's always the one who suggests random excursions to bizarre places – weird tourist attractions that would never make it into any guide book worth printing. They try to outdo one another with more random coffee and tea combinations, getting to the point of ordering what is loosely described as lemon-infused mint chai coffee-cinos with dollops of yoghurt.
The rest of the cast also gets in on the "Gross Contest" with Landon winning when he eats a raw witchetty grub without pulling a face even though Dean's the one who started that one, too.
"It's natural to develop feelings for cast mates," Jason says gently and a horrified Naomi stares up into the face of the man who plays her onscreen father.
"Is it that obvious?" she demands, humiliated.
"No," Jason tells her. "I just happen to be pretty observant."
"He has a girlfriend."
"Who he also met on the set of one of his movies."
"Warning taken, dad," she drawls, rolling her eyes at him.
Jason smiles. "I don't want to see you getting hurt."
"I am going to miss you," she tells him.
"Hey the show isn't over until the fat lady sings – we might all be back on set again next year."
"I hope so," Naomi tells him. The song comes to an end and Naomi watches Dean take Alana out onto the dance floor and run through some goofy dance moves with the giggling girl.
Their third kiss takes place during Occupation. The director tells them they have to be sad – like it's the last time they'll ever see each other .. that Reynolds might be leaving forever. He almost has Naomi in tears by the end of the explanation. The only thing that stops her from actually blubbering on set and disgracing herself is that Dean's laughing at her, his blue eyes filled with unholy amusement at what a softie she is.
"I'm crying over Reynolds, not you," she tells him irritably but as the scene starts, she senses a change in him. Maybe he's acting or maybe the scene is making him realise what it's like to walk away from his partner in crime for the last time. When he turns, walks back, takes her face into his hands and kisses her – it feels real. Without intending to, her lips part for a second and she tastes him as his tongue slides against hers for just the briefest second.
He stares down at her, his eyes a little dazed. "I love you," Reynolds tells Maddy and Naomi nods and smiles tremulously.
"I love you, too," Maddy Shannon tells Reynolds. The director is impressed that they nailed it in one take.
They walk away from the set, fingertips brushing against each other ever so lightly.
Their fourth kiss is the make-out scene in the jungle. She's not sure whether to be excited or apprehensive. Dean's face is very unreadable and Naomi watches as they spray him with water to give him a sweaty appearance. He's wearing a singlet and his bare forearms are damp – strange because they usually cover him up with full body armour.
When the scene starts, they reach for each other at the same time. The kissing is breathless and frantic, she can feel his fingers in her hair, touching her face. She's resting her left hand on his arm, her right hand on the side of his neck as she pulls him closer – or maybe he's pulling her closer. It's hard to tell. On cue they break apart and both babble something about the Carnotaurus.
Dean interrupts her babbling as scripted but a little earlier than expected and she savours the feel of his cool lips against hers, the feel of his strong, hard body pressing her against the tree and how it feels to have his mouth devouring hers. After they finish the take, Naomi touches her mouth and it's red, swollen and damp just as if it was a real kiss and not something that's make believe on the set of a silly science fiction television show.
She stumbles to her trailer after the take to regroup, confused with her head spinning.
There's a knock on the door and she remains very quiet, pretending she's not there.
"Scott – give it up, I know you're in there," Dean says through the door. Usually when he's banging on the door, it's for another one of his outings. "Yoh Scott – let's go for a walk" or "Scott – we're going to go and jump off a waterfall – you in or out?"
Today she knows it's not any of those things and so she says nothing.
The door opens and she jumps to her feet in outrage. "Did you just pick the lock of my trailer?" she demands.
"Guilty as charged," Dean says, holding his hands up in surrender. "Just making sure you're all right – you ran off awfully fast today."
"I'm fine, except for criminals breaking into my trailer. Bloody obvious that you're an Australian – convicts the lot you."
"South African," he corrects her with a grin.
She makes a whatever sign with her hands and rolls her eyes.
"So it's clear I'm fine, you can go now," she tells him, standing up and heading towards the door to open it and show him out. He catches her lightly by the arm and turns her around to face him. His blue eyes travel over her face searchingly as if he is trying to figure out what she's thinking.
"You're still just a kid ..." he says in a low voice, his eyes darkening. He sees the anger snap into her eyes.
"Thanks, are we done?" she demands.
"Scott ... I ..."
"You don't even know my flippin' name," she tells him irritably and he laughs and runs a frustrated hand through his hair.
"I do. I really do," he tells her, reaching up a hand to touch her cheek.
"Do kisses always feel like that?" she asks him abruptly.
His eyes widen. He is clearly not expecting a question like that and he answers truthfully without thinking through his response. "No – never ..." When he realises what he has said, his eyes instantly become shuttered.
"I think you should go," she says with a forced smile, her eyes stinging a little. "I've heard it's easy to get carried away by the moment – you're a really good actor, you know that?" He flinches but he leaves.
Naomi stares at the room full of cast mates and crew having a good time at the party but her head is elsewhere. "Earth calling Scott," Dean interrupts her thoughts again.
"I need some fresh air," she tells him and walks away from him and out of the room into the car park where she takes deep breaths of air and tells herself that it's just a crush and that it's going to pass.
The fifth time they kiss, it's not on-screen, it's in an empty, darkened car park and there are no cameras or crew ... just Dean holding her face between his hands as he calls her Naomi for the first time and he kisses her as if he means it and as if there's nothing so important in the world to him as this moment between them.
His lips trail across her cheek, breathing deeply of her scent before returning to her mouth again and her hands slide beneath his shirt to touch his warm skin. His teeth nip sharply at the delicate skin at her throat and just as their breathing quickens and their pulses race, his phone rings.
From the ring tone she knows it's his girlfriend and she stiffens immediately in his arms. Before he can say anything to her, she's pulling away from him and running back into the auditorium.
She's not sure how she lasts for the rest of the night, a forced smile plastered on her face.
She watches as some entertainment show corners Dean and asks him about what's on the top of his Christmas wish list.
He looks directly at her. "I wish there really was a tear in the time continuum and it was possible to go and start things over in a different time without worrying about the consequences in this world ..."
Chapter 2: Happy Holidays
The phone rings. No caller ID. There wouldn't be for an international call. She lets it go to voice mail and puts the phone back in her bag.
The phone blips stubbornly, letting her know that a text message has arrived.
Merry Christmas Eve Scott ...
She puts on a bright smile as she helps to rearrange the presents beneath the tree.
The phone rings. No caller ID. She lets it go to voice mail and stares at the screen for a long moment.
Merry Christmas Scott ... Hope my present got there in time ...
She rips open the small parcel that was couriered from the States and placed into her hands. She stares at the cross-eyed wombat brooch looking back up at her with demented eyes. Dean could never understand why out of all of Australia's native fauna, she has such a thing for wombats. She thinks they're cute in the way they shuffle along. She looks in the envelope. There's no note or card. There doesn't need to be. She knows who it's from.
New Year's Eve.
The phone rings. She waits for the text message.
It's already 2012 in Australia Scott.
She resists the almost irresistible urge to text him back and ask him how it feels to live in LA - in the past when she's in futuristic London. Of course she doesn't and she forces herself to put her phone away. It's bad enough that she's saving these messages when she should be deleting them. Then again, who is she kidding? Even if she deletes his messages and his number from her phone, how is she going to delete the memory of the way his blue eyes darken when they stare at her? How's she going to delete the memory of his hard, firm body against hers and the taste of him in her mouth? Even though she tells herself that it was all acting and that there's nothing more to it - deep down she knows the truth.
New Year's Day.
The phone rings. She holds it in her hand, watching it ring and ring.
Scott - Happy New Year.
And then, suddenly, there's another message.
I know you're there.
Her mouth twists in a wry smile and then blinks as another text shows up.
I've told her it's over. I've told her how I feel about you.
Naomi freezes, staring down at the phone. Her hand isn't quite steady as she re-reads the message. She closes her eyes and re-reads it again. She swallows hard and puts the phone away. She opens the front door and steps through, stopping abruptly as she almost collides with the man standing there, holding a phone in his hand.
"How - ?" she starts to demand incredulously and he smiles slowly and ruefully down at her.
"Planes - they're a great invention - you should try one some time. Figured I had to show up in person since you keep ignoring my messages."
Naomi has no words and she takes a step back as Dean takes a step forward and kicks the front door shut behind him.
"I um ..." she stammers, her heart pounding and her face flushed.
"You've got somewhere to be?" he asks her sardonically, taking her bag off her shoulder and tossing it onto her ratty couch, along with his phone.
"Yeah," she mutters, aware that his arms are sliding around her, even as she tries to step back and away from him.
"Careful there - wall," he warns her as her back comes up against the unyielding wall of her flat. His mouth is inches from her, his eyes dark with want and emotion. He looks so good and she has missed him so much. His mouth tantalises her, brushing a playful and teasing kiss along her jaw. She tries hard to ignore the embarrassing heat between her thighs at his nearness, an arousal that she knows is mutual.
"You shouldn't be here," she tells him, even as her fingertips slid beneath his t-shirt to touch his warm skin.
"This is exactly where I should be," he says huskily and then she's moaning his name against his lips as he kisses her hard, tasting and rediscovering. His bold hands have slid beneath her skirt and she knows her body has betrayed her.
Whether the show is renewed or not - the new year is filled with extremely exciting possibilities.